Posts Tagged Risotto

Religious diner……Galvins LaChapelle* // London

Freshly awarded 1 star in 2011, the brother Galvins (Jeff & Chris) are not unknown on the market as they’ve been running Windows at the Park Lane Hilton since 5 years already. But far from the lux and chic of the Hilton outdated hotel chain – to be fair I’m not a fan to be fair of Hilton’s hotels, mostly 70’s old designed and tasteless – Galvins’ bros started this very clever new address in a far more “bobo” location, off the thrilling East End, not far from vibrant Brick Lane, close to the city and their financial clientele.

The main dining room

When you arrive, I would describe it as a revelation, almost a pray! Are you getting into a cathedral, a church, maybe just a barn? Very confusing as it was formerly a Victorian School Chapel now re-designed and listed grade II.

Massive, grandiose, superb…those are the words I would use here to describe the feeling. Please have a stand in front of the huge front wall, and then enter where you’ll feel almost like entering to a royal procession. The long bar on the left hand side welcome you and then you start to have an eye to the high and superb wood roof and the chandelier. 30 meters high, it’s an impressive volume, and above the open plan kitchen you can see the massive mezzanine.

Wonderful architecture and very bizarrely, you would expect the place to be very noisy, it’s totally the opposite. I appreciate my first minute in this religious dining room, almost a royal ceremony.

At this point in time, you can feel that the atmosphere is dedicated to food. A glance at one or two plates on other tables can straight give you the feeling that you just landed in a respectable place and that you’ll certainly enjoy the rest of the evening.

The Menu Gourmand

I’ve evocated recently the lack of service on most of the place I’ve tested so far in Europe. What a pleasure to arrive at Galvins and get a nice smile, to have someone opening the table for you i.e. take the chair away from the table for you to seat easily. But above all the cheer up from the staff, smiling and talking to you nicely. I think it’s been a while since I had this kind of really nice and professional feeling. From the maitre d’ to the sommelier, all the staff has been really professional. Always the right suggestion at the right time, no need to ask for bread here, it’ll flow naturally, and icing on the cake : clean up of the table between every course as well.

To notice as well, the sommelier was explaining the wines with such conviction and talent, this was a pure moment of pleasure just to listen.

But let’s start with the courses and appreciate the talent of the “chefs” in action.

Lasagne of Dorset crab & “beurre nantais”

Undoubtedly one of the best performance of the evening. Simple and in the meantime so clever. Made almost like a French style quenelle, but flat, then lightly dropped into a Lasagne style cocoon. Dress up with simple cress and cover of a light “beurre nantais”. Strangely the simplest dish of the evening, but at same time the execution was so perfect.

Risotto of Fresh peas and goat’s curd

Another hit there, I’ve to say, somehow I would be able to eat this risotto every morning. The delicacy of the curd mixed with amazingly perfectly cooked peas. Another simple dish but just a perfect cooking. The peas where cooked to perfection and “popping” in your mouth while eating. The curd was giving some extra texture to the whole risotto. A must to taste.

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Roast pavé of Salmon, white peach, mussels, cobnut & verjus beurre


Nice mix here and some creativity. Peach and Salmon, sweet and sour. Maybe adventurous but I’ve to say it works. The salmon was very fishy hence was perfectly balancing the sweetness of the peach flavor in the sauce and the slices under the salmon “pavé”. As the juice was a verjus reduction, the sauce texture was almost like a syrup. Very nice combination and well balanced. Otherwise, don’t ask me why, but we didn’t find the mussels!! Instead there was a scallop. Certainly a change of last minute. Not bad!! Another gem was this cucumber pickled and marinated in some almond juice or liquor?! Can’t really tell but it was fantastic.

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Tagine of Bresse pigeon, couscous, aubergine purée harissa sauce


Finally the chef signature dish, which I would call a “deconstructed” Morocan Tagine. I have to say, I never had that for a long time. The service as usual was fantastic, as the two waiters waited the last second, that all the tagine been dropped on the table to open all the four lids at the same time (very professional).

And then the perfection…..instantly the flavor of the best tagine I’ve ever had started to fill the air with a wonderful smell. All North Africa’s cuisine was instantly “embalming” the room. Harrisa, the couscous, the pigeon, …..unbelievable.

Then all the components were just divine, from the couscous “galette” under the pigeon, to the pigeon pastilla, and aubergine unbelievably creamy.

Then this pigeon breast itself which am assuming has been cooked slowly on “sous vide” and just slightly roasted at the last minute (assumption). The simple cooked garlic and this amazing lemon pickled with some almond flavor again.

Superb….. I just want to go back again …..

JUST FOR THIS MAIN COURSE…

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Apple tarte Tatin, crème fraîche (not represented here)

Ok, let’s be honest here, I’m French, so as such « tarte tatin » is part of your language and our french culture as the “baguette” would be. Hence no restaurant of such a high standard should fail on this and a unique dessert, I felt a little bit disappointed. When you chose to take a “tasting menu” it is usually to have the chance of being blown away by the talent and creation. I’m afraid here we’re facing another issue on this menu. You can’t leave this amazing place on a bad impression. And I’m afraid, as well you’ll be sad if you leave the concert of your favorite singer without having your favorite song being performed, I felt the same…….

Don’t get me wrong, the dessert was superbly cooked. But not “twinkle” enough for my taste and for the price. Can do seriously better here.

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So overall, what to think about Galvins?

I would stay on a kind of confusion feeling, share between excellence and disappointment. Some dishes were just superbly creative and full of taste. The creation is the key and root to the excellence. Over 8 courses, maybe only half of them are really striking my attention. The other half, I’m afraid is such pointless that it’s unfortunately leaving this feeling of inconsistency.

I think sometime chefs want to impress by the number of dishes on the menu list, and forget to balance with quality. Here maybe 6 courses would have been enough. Skip the terrine, skip the cheese. Replace by something exciting, unknown, or forgotten. And please, the dessert (even if this is not my favorite part in a full dinner) can’t be bad, neither average nor common. This is the grand finale, like in a firework. This needs to be fabulous.

Hopefully, I’ve to say I really enjoyed the raspberry macaroons and the pure chocolate seeds in the silver pot with the coffee. I think it was my real dessert; people were amused to eat for the first time chocolate seeds, uncommon and funny.

To sum up, I would say that Galvins at Lachapelle is still in getting on his strides. Some adjustments needs to be made on the overall food architecture. From a service perspective, for whoever is working for the staff and reading those lines I’ll give a 10. This was just one of those rare moments of professionalism.

FOOD = 7/10
DECORATION/AMBIANCE = 8/10
SERVICE = 9/10
NOISE = 8/10
 
www.galvinrestaurants.com
35 Spital Square
City of London E1 6DX
020 7299 0400

 

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The Ledbury** chic…..a products “revival” – London

Chef Brett Graham

If London has definitely catch up Paris in the last ten years in bringing one of the best french food establishments, it is still difficult to admit that the pure english food has been really brought up to tha same level. Some arrogant french people will just tell you that is simply because there is not english food, and will stay on the conception that “mint lamb” is not good. How pity is that. I’ve understood the english food since I arrive in the UK and I think that I can now confirm that UK concept of food in focusing on the quality of product and the usage of many unknown or forgotten vegetables.

When I first arrive in the UK I was amazingly impressed by the variety of vegetables you can find in a department store. Some old marrow, small ones in different shapes, and colors. Squash, Jerusalem artichokes, turnips, and other else varieties of vegetables that we don’t see very frequently in France. He sounds like in the UK you can find more variety of products?? paradoxical? nope …..recent studies¹ are proving that UK citizen are better than french at cooking…..no surprise on my side, and especially after 5 years in the country. I think is also come essentially from the mixed culture in this country. If we take only London, it’s amazing how you can jump from the best Indians restaurant, to the temple of Iranian delicacy, towards the proper Chinese dumpling, and obviously without missing some of the best french empires. Hence the UK has now reach his high quality level of cooking and here the Ledbury is an example of how British food can be just sumptuous. In 2010 Brett Graham won his second star on Michelin and after a full diner there I can confirm it worth it.

From that nite I can remember some really good stuff, but I had to select only few as I can’t give you to read the Bible.

beetroot macaron with foie gras mousse

When we arrived, while we were enjoying our aperitif we had the pleasure of testing the beetroot macaron with foie gras mousse. What can we say here, I’ve tested loads of macaroons from the most exquisite places in Paris e.g. Laduree and Pierre Herme, but this ones are just totally delirious. You can’t imagine how light they are. When you eat them, they just literally melt down into your mouth like a cloud. The beetroot flavor first, lightly sweet and then the foie gras mousse….how can it be richer than that. This was like eating a bubble full of air, and the sweetness of the beetroot was the perfect alliance. “Mise en bouche” or dessert…..I could eat more of those….anytime. Just “Yum”.

At this point in time, I’ve identified some perfection and extravaganza in this first start and I was expecting more to come. I’ve seriously not been disappointed by the second course which seriously confirmed the two stars here.

Squid Risotto!! what could you expect? another hit of course. When the plate been served, the first impression is that we were looking for the squid!! Usually you know how squids are presented, as those long and elastic white tubes (common, boring, tasty, but nothing really exciting, like a piece of plastic). Here nothing like this at all. When I started to eat the risotto, I was already impressed how creamy and delicate the rice was. But at some point I was wondering where was the squids!! and then we all look to each other around the table.

Stunning, and as simple as that, the squid was cut so thin that we didn’t even realized that the risotto was in fact made not with rice, but with really thin and cubic pieces of squid. I can’t even tell if there was, or not, any rice in the recipe. Unbelievable. Stunning, surprising and clever. How can you expect to have a risotto without rice? Just come and try at the Ledbury.

The next one was I’ve to say somewhat “theatrical”. After few minutes left to relax from the “risotto without rice”, then mister waiter came back to the table with a ball of pastry on a wood plate. Surprise!!! I was not expecting that. Then he started to explain what was on the plate. This rounded piece of pastry, just golden by the yoke, just came straight from the oven. Then we’ve been told this has been cooked for 40 minutes slowly at 160 C°. At this stage we were wondering what it could be!!?? hopefully the waiter broke the silence and explain as well that the chef decided to drop a nice size celeriac in some wood ashes and to cook it into a simple pastry. From there the celeriac will not be the usual one you usually dislike or put on the side of your dish. No no no ….this time you’ll love celeriac.

Celeriac Baked In Ash with hazelnuts

The dressing was exceptional. Once sliced in 5 or 6 leaves for each plate, the celeriac was dressed in a kind of flower frame, then the chef did prepare a nice mayonnaise with horseradish and truffle and some vinegar. The idea was obviously not to cover the nature of the amazing creation. The principle was to obviously get the flavor of the ashes on the celeriac. Once in the mouth it was just a perfect “equilibrium”. The celeriac, being cooked very slowly and long just stayed perfectly firm and reveal his original flavor. Then you feel this “cheminée” flavor, like if the celeriac would have been dropped directly on some coal and cooked on flame. Almost a kind of burning wood essence on the background. And then on top, the truffle with horseradish. The meeting of sweetness and hot, superb with the celeriac.

After this one, I’ve to say, I really confirmed the two stars been reached. This kind of piece of art, even if you think (and you’re right) is not mega expensive, this is just what you can expect from such a high level chef. Just to be surprise by the creation and the efficiency and the combination of the ingredients, as such as the technicality of the cooking.

We followed after with another wonderful Tea-infused venison with roast potatoes, pickled red cabbage and rich port sauce. Same a the previous one, it sounds like the chef like his fire-place and use to cook with ashes. But in this case, of course he will not roll the venison in ashes, but just marinated it into some black tea most commonly known as lapsang souchong. This is giving the incredible flavor of burning to the meat, which I confess is not the easiest choice in a restaurant like this. How dare would you serve some game in such a restaurant, and especially on a testing menu. Just because you know that the lapsang souchong will create a perfect equation to sweeten the strength of the venison, and enhance the dreariness of the cabbage. Just enlighten by some port reduction. Deliciousssssssssss

The Ledbury

The Ledbury, a new stunning address in London and I’ve to say the pleasure of enjoying some real english food, prepared in the respect and the standard level of french chefs. I would emphasis that here, by creating and inventing, the English cooking has become an ace and the Ledbury just proved to the rest of the world that english “cuisine” is simply a question of “rediscovery” and that at some point more Ledburys will open. The usage of unused products or forgotten, just as well shows that english food is somehow maybe more diversified and can be therefore maybe be more creative!! Will see how it goes in the next few year though, but I’ll follow closely mister Graham. ;o)

¹http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/22/british-cook-better-than-french

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www.theledbury.com

127 Ledbury Road

London W11 2AQ, United Kingdom

020 7792 9090

The Ledbury on Urbanspoon

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